Paddington 2

Since 1958, English author Michael Bond’s creation Paddington Bear has enchanted people of all ages. With a love of marmalade and attired with hat and duffel coat, the cute bear has spun off into all sorts of different media. Films are a natural for the character with ‘Paddington 2’ picking up where the 2014 film left off. Charting the further adventures of everyone’s favourite bear, ‘Paddington 2’ is fun nonsense sure to shake the morose apathy of the most hardened movie-watcher.

Paddington is enjoying living life in Windsor Gardens with his adopted family the Browns. Looked after by Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Mary (Sally Hawkins) Paddington has become a popular member of the community. When his Aunt Lucy celebrates her 100th birthday, Paddington decides to purchase a special pop-up book for the occasion. On his way to buy it, he is dismayed to discover it has been stolen. Accused of the crime and sent to prison, he and his family determine to find the culprit. A suspect emerges in Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) whose shady ways are no match for the always clever bear.

‘Paddington 2’ succeeds because of its abundance of charm. That’s the key to a successful children’s movie. If it manages to have a modicum of enchanting charm then it’s halfway there. ‘Paddington 2’ has genuine feeling and depth without overly laying on the sentimentality. It’s a credit to Paul King’s direction that we care about an animated creature with Paddington’s innocent optimism a bonus instead of a sugar-coated negative. The human cast do an excellent job in matching the film’s light tone, diving into the fun adventure with glee.

Although the pacing occasionally drags, ‘Paddington 2’ is consistently enjoyable viewing. The English locations are wonderfully photographed, effectively capturing the original aura of the Paddington books. It would have been easy making these films period pieces but the modern setting works. There are no cynical remarks or bodily function gags which could have robbed it of any timelessness. Years from now ‘Paddington 2’ should still stand up as quality family entertainment with the action sequences and sense of awe never fading.

‘Paddington 2’ is a bouncy ride having the ‘wonder’ other films lack. Sadly Michael Bond died a few months before this film was released. But hopefully Paddington’s creator knew his legacy was in good hands as ‘Paddington 2’ further cements the character’s popularity for further generations to enjoy.

Rating out of 10: 8

Lady Bird

‘Lady Bird’ is a comedy drama about family relationships. As we all come from a family in one way or another, films like these should easily resonate as the topics are usually the same with the high and low points challenging. Dealing with these issues can bring out the best and worst in people as ‘Lady Bird’ shows. Written and Directed with stylish flair by Greta Gerwig, ‘Lady Bird’ is an arresting essay in the trials and tribulations of growing up and familial life.

Christine (Saoirse Ronan) attends a Catholic high school. Preferring to go by her nickname ‘Lady Bird’, she grapples with what life throws at her. Dealing with her over-bearing mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and friends, she has a lot on her plate. Christine’s daily hassles nearly take their toll on her tough exterior with a crisis always around the corner.

There’s nothing more exciting than watching the debut feature of a new talent. Gerwig is someone to watch as she puts a lot of herself into ‘Lady Bird’. It almost plays like a documentary as the camera eavesdrops into Christine’s emotional dilemmas. Based on situations in her own life, Gerwig directs with keen authenticity without resorting to melodramatics. The characters and emotions are very real with the humour and drama blended perfectly. Little feels forced in what Christine and her friends face as they attempt to find their place in the world.

Ronan, Metcalf and their co-stars also make ‘Lady Bird’ compelling viewing. They highlight the best parts of Gerwig’s astutely written script due to their realistic performances. Whilst the interaction between Christine and her mother are occasionally uncomfortable, that’s the whole point of ‘Lady Bird’ as it meditates on the problems of teenage and parental life. The cinematography deftly captures their arguments in extreme close-up that forces viewers to join in the melee. The subversive look at the catholic school system is interesting as well with the typical clichés in other coming of age school movies absent.

‘Lady Bird’ isn’t the usual type of family film seen. ‘The Brady Bunch’ it isn’t and it’s the better for it. With a solid cast and strong script it rarely falters as it discards false sentimentality in favour of authentic freshness making for an unusual but captivating outing.

Rating out of 10: 8